The first M-346 aircraft produced for the Italian Air Force (ITAF) had a successful first flight this past week (31 March 2011). The ITAF has designated the plane as the T-346A.
“The first flight of the T-346A, soon to enter service with our country’s Air Force, is an important milestone for the M-346 program, a milestone reached through the dedication of the entire work force of the Venegono plant,” said Mr. Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Alenia Aeronautica and Responsible of the Aeronautics Sector of Finmeccanica Group.
Flown by Chief Test Pilot Quirino Bucci, the aircraft took off at 4 p.m. from Venegono, the home airfield of Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica company controlled by Alenia Aeronautica.
The flight lasted 40 minutes and the T-346A reached a maximum altitude of 15,000 ft., covering the planned flight envelope in terms of speed, angle of attack and load factor. The flight also included manoeuvres to assess aeromechanical handling of the aircraft and systems functionality.
After landing, Captain Bucci expressed appreciation for the aircraft. “Once again, the aircraft demonstrated its excellent characteristics in terms of handling, energy and man-machine interface, all crucial points in training future pilots to fly new generation combat aircraft.”
The ITAF T-346A is the first M-346 series production aircraft completed. The Alenia Aermacchi site in Venegono now operates a leading-edge, highly-automated production line capable of delivering up to 48 aircraft per year with competitive cost and high quality in order to meet the highest program requirements.
The remaining aircraft for the Italian Air Force are already being built on this new assembly line, and production of the 12 aircraft ordered by the Singapore Air Force are also underway.
Alenia Aermacchi M-346 marketing activities are very active both in Europe and the rest of the world. Alenia North America is preparing to bid on the U.S. Air Force's T-X Trainer Replacement Program with the T-100, the U.S. variant of the M-346. The T-100 is the most modern, high performance, safe for student pilots and the lowest life cycle cost of any modern trainer aircraft on the market today.
The Air Forces of several nations have expressed interest in this aircraft, which meets the latest training requirement of the new generation aircraft such as the F-22, F-35 and the Eurofighter.